Chapter One

Matt:

"Just wait here a second, Matt. I'll be right back," My mom said softly with a smile in her voice. She continued to rub my back for a few moments longer while I kept my head firmly secure between my knees; attempting and failing to stop the room from spinning.

"Okay, Mom," was all I was able to choke out. I hated this part of…everything. It was mostly the way they looked at me—my mom, the nurses, the patients—like I was dead already. That's what they thought of me.

I sat up once my mom's hand stopped moving on my back. I rubbed my temples and opened my eyes slowly to watch her walk away. I let my eyes drift around the nearly empty waiting room and I couldn't help but think: there used to be a lot more people here. I had a pretty good guess what happened to them. Either they did or got better, no real in between.

I heard the doors open just outside the waiting room. I tried to ignore it and not let my mind ponder who it might be but I felt this wave of anxiety flood through me. I noticed the other patients reaction too. They either gripped their arm rests or eagerly sat up to attention. I was somewhere in the middle.

And there she was. She walked into the room with nothing but confidence. A large shimmering halo of blonde hair surrounding her face. She was stunning, wounded, healthy. With each step she took further in, the sea green colors faded and were replaced by the echo of shoes on the linoleum. She didn't belong here and I tried desperately to shut my mouth and look away.

She had a face that belonged in a magazine and a walk that belonged on a runway. She's out of my league, I thought as I managed to pull my gaze to the muted tv screen. Something about world news and politics. She wouldn't look at me.

That was another thing the Cancer killed—any chance I had with girls.

Without my consent my face turned in her direction. Her eyes fell on me and I had that reflexive instinct to throw up…but in a good way, if there ever could be. Her cheeks took on some color as she looked down at her old converses. I tried not to look at her as she took the seat my mom left open. I failed and only succeeded in openly gawking at her.

She smiled , looking away then back again. Was she really looking at me? She seemed to be bouncing her gaze from me to the open seat next to her but the next time her eyes came back she didn't look away. She was still blushing but I could see a hint of fear on her face. She must have known I was a dead man.

"Hi…," she greeted. "My name's Cassandra."

I smiled a smile that had not been smiled since I found out about the Cancer. I returned her greeting, "Hey…I'm Matt."

I looked into her eyes and was amazingly surprised by the color. Her right eye was a deep green that was the same color as the hoody I was wearing. But her left…Her left was a similar shade of green but much, much lighter—like the pigment in that eye was dying first.

I licked my lips before blurting out, "I'm sorry to ask but…what are you doing here?"

I instantly regretted asking but I had to know. This hospital was for patients that suffered from advanced stages of Cancer. If she had it, she was just diagnosed.

"Well…I," she let the 'I' drag on as she looked up, reliving something, "was a bit closer to death than I wanted to be last night."

"Yeah…I know what you mean," I said, trying not to think of last night. Seven times. We had to stop seven times because I couldn't keep my lunch down…or my dying cells, "It sucks."

"You have no idea," she whispered to no one in particular. She looked at me again, smiling, "So, where are you from? I-I haven't seen you around."

"I don't live around here. I have to drive like..four hours to come," I answered, thinking of all the sad times I caught my mom praying when she thought I was asleep.

"That sounds like a lot of driving," she said with distaste.

"It kind of is, " I sighed, looking around the waiting room to see if my mom would come save me. I was so bad at this. This was a shit conversation and it was all my fault. I will officially die alone.

"Who drives you?" She asked, bringing my attention back to her.

"My mom, "I answered, not exactly sure if I wanted her rushed or stalled anymore.

"She's lucky, "Cassandra said quickly to my surprise. Cursed was more like it.

"What?" I asked. To be sure I heard her right.

"Yeah, " she said, blushing and thinking as she spoke, "She gets to spend the whole day with you, talking nonstop. I think that's lucky."

I tried not to let my jaw hang open too wide but I was shocked. I was dead—I had to be. How could SHE be flirting with ME?

"Well, I have to go," I looked to the door as she started to get up with a frown. A doctor was now leaving the room so I guessed that was the one that signaled her. I regretted not participating more in the conversation. This was way too good to be true.

"Um…,"she said, making me look up to her. "Do you have a cell phone?"

"Uh…Uh…," it took me a minute to relax the racing of my heart and get mind straight. I licked my lips and spat out, "You know I have cancer right?"

"Oh…"she paused. Then her mouth cracked into this smirk that was way too cute to aimed at me, "Congratulations…I still want your number."

"Okay, " I let the word drift out of my mouth as easily as my mouth lifted into a half smile. I took out my cell phone, neglecting the fact that it was the one that was only used for emergencies. And we exchanged digits.

"Maybe on one of your long trips you can text me or something, "she was blushing and had this look that made me think she thought I would say 'no.'

"Okay…"was all I could manage to slur as she walked out of the room. No way.

As Cassandra disappeared my mom came into view, "Matt…come on."

I got out as soon as she beckoned. I saw the doctor that I thought was Cassandra's but she was no where to be found. I stopped and looked to my mom, "I'll meet you in the car."

"Okay," she smiled her trusting smile and I waited til she was out of sight before I made my move.

"Excuse me, sir, but who was that girl in the waiting room?" I asked.

"Who?" he asked, confused.

"Um…the blonde I was talking to?" I tried to clarify.

"I have no idea. Today was the first time I ever saw her. I thought she was your guest,"he answered, making what little I knew about her tinged with uncertainty.

"Oh…"was all I could say as I walked away, "Thank you."

Who was this mystery girl?

Cassandra:

"Frick, Frick, Frick!" I yelled, slamming my hand against the steering wheel of my 1964 Volkswagon 21-Window Van. With each contact my palm made I tried to get the image of the last thing I had seen out.

It was a little glimpse of the future, what awaited the poor guy that just walked into the Cancer hospital of Connecticut. He had cancer! He didn't deserve the darkness, the flames, the things, the fire.

This must have been it. This must have been what woke me up this morning and dragged me to this place. This guy, I had to help him; I had to stop this from coming true.

I took in as deep of a breath as I could. I felt like I was seconds from plunging into ice cold oblivion. Someone was timing how long I could stay under this time. I got out of the van, not bothering to lock the door behind me. No one wanted this piece of old school beauty. It had been in my family way too long to matter to anyone but us.

My feet came to a stop just outside the automatic doors. I could feel the negative energy rolling off the building in waves, repelling me from entering. It was almost painful to walk through the doors. Almost impossible to step into the waiting room.

I let my eyes drift over the faces until I found the one. Another glimpse shot through me. A glance into his future like a preview to next weeks episode. Burning, decaying, horror. All that good stuff.

When the images past I caught his eyes and couldn't help but flinch my gaze away. It couldn't be him; it can't be him. Please God, not him.

I forced myself to catch his eye again as I waled toward the empty seat beside him. I was completely disgusted with myself. Was I really blushing? I never ever blush! Then again, I never ever get the attention of someone like him unless I'm getting rid of some ghosties. But normally I would never be able to get someone like him to look at me…someone so handsome, so tragically misplaced…OH MY GOODNESS I LIKED HIM!

I sat down and tried to open my mouth to talk but it went numb. I looked away, hoping he didn't catch that. What was wrong with me?! I looked back at him to double check it was him, hoping beyond hope it wasn't him—it was.

He looked at me as if I had six heads or six clearly visible zits, which ever was worse. He was waiting for me to do something. Either to speak or to leave, and I really didn't want to go. So, I smiled and said, "Hi…my name's Cassandra."

He smiled this cute little shy smile and said, "Hey…I'm Matt."

I was about to say something when I got stuck. I got stuck on this weird beating of my heart as he looked into my eyes and I looked into his. The deeper I gazed the darker they became. Although I knew his eyes were beautiful, they were a tangle of dark shadow that dragged me in, like I was drifting into some part of his inner workings. And in some far off part—miles and nukes down the tunnel and coming closer—I could see bodies moving over each other in some golden array of candle light and flesh. I could se-

"I'm sorry to ask but…"I was pulled back into my body by the sound of Matt's voice. I had to blink fast to adjust my eyes to the light of the waiting room again. What had happened?"What are you doing here?"

"Well…I," I wondered how I should phrase the exact reason I came. I couldn't exactly tell him the truth. That after the seance last night trying to contact my mother and the ectoplasmic good of flying vomit that left my mouth and nostrils I was bent of changing my life and this was the new start God was directing me to. I couldn't exactly say that. So I settled on,"was a bit closer to death than I wanted to be last night."

I bit my lip as he said,"Yeah, I know what you mean," scared the stuff from last night would pour out of my mouth again. I could still kinda taste it, "It sucks."

"You have no idea," I whispered, dragging my tongue over my lips to ease up the flow of words. I looked back at him, hating that the conversation sort of felt over. I didn't know how to keep it going so I spat out, "So, where are you from? I-I haven't seen you around?"

What did I know? I never see anyone around, "I don't live around here. I have to drive like…four hours to come."

He did this frown that wasn't so much of a frown as much as it was a mating call. "That sounds like a lot of driving," I said, imagining him revealing himself of the side of the road.

"It kind of is," he sighed, looking around the room. I kicked myself internally for being so horrible at conversations. He must be bored out of his mind. But I couldn't just let him go.

So I asked suddenly," Who drives you?"

"My mom," he answered in this slow motion way. His lips hugging and parting as his face turned back in my direction. 'My mom' has never looked so good.

"She's lucky," tumbled out of my mouth before I could catch it. Why was I such a spazz?! What was it about him that made the years of…pain, suffering, and..abnormality just vanish?

"What?" he asked, obviously thinking I was a tard or something..

"Yeah," I said with my face a million shades of pink and purple. Alright Cass, make it a good one, "She gets to spend the whole day with you, talking nonstop…I think that's lucky."

He looked at me like I was the bad kind of special. I was so painfully horrible at this! Shoot!

I saw a doctor come in and look at me. I could instantly feel his confusion and his wanting me out. He looked like one of those know-it-all doctors but felt like a baby medium. I had to get out before he started asking questions. So when he got out of the room I said, "Well, I have to go."

I started to stand up with a frown. I could see the flash of the future in my memory but I put Matt in all the blank spaces. He was so hot, I couldn't just let him walk into that unprotected. I turned to him while he looked down,"Um…Do you have a cell phone?"

"Uh…Uh…,"buttercups. I should have known that was too much. I should have seen the signs. I should have kno-,"You know I have cancer right?"

"Oh…"I blinked. Was that it? I could have laughed! Did he not feel hot because of his illness? Was that why he was so distant? "Congratulations…I still want your number."

"Okay," he said, his mouth unfolding into a half smile that made my eyes drift up the half arch of lips and skin.

We exchanged numbers and I couldn't stop myself from blushing. And in my insecure way I said, "Maybe on one of your long trips you can text me or something."

"Okay," was all he said and I took my leave. I walked past the doctor in time to hear what was surely Matt's mom say, "Matt…come on."

I rushed out of the hospital, feeling like I was bursting from a black bag. I got into my big beautiful van and took in a deep breath of vanilla, cinnamon, and brown sugar. I calmed myself; mediums were no good when they were nervous.

I put the van in 'D' and drove out of the parking lot. I cheesed it to one of many safe clearings where I could get some rest. After all that I was super tired and something told me peaceful sleep was numbered.